If you ever worked in a wet darkroom, you know about dodging and burning. Dodging makes photos lighter and burning makes them darker. Photoshop’s DODGE and BURN tools do the same thing. However, most photographers don’t know that dodging and burning in RGB or sRGB mode, the two most popular photo color spaces, can cause your image’s colors to shift.

To avoid these color shifts, consider a switch of your image to LAB mode. Go too IMAGE > MODE > LAB. This is a subset of RGB so switching back and forth between the two will in no way harm your image or change its color.

Make a duplicate Background Layer. Select the DODGE or BURN tools. Go to the OPTIONS PALETTE and select MIDTONES and 100% opacity. If you need to correct the opacity of your work, you can do it on the entire layer since you made a duplicate background layer.

Then make smooth corrections using DODGE or BURN tools. I suggest a soft brush so that your dodging and burning looks more natural.

You should note that when dodging and burning in LAB mode, you are only affecting the lightness of the colors, not the hues. That is the secret of working in LAB mode. You are only changing the luminosity channel. The two color channels are unchanged.

If you are sure of your changes you can flatten the layer and go on or save a copy with both layers intact.

While there are other ways to deal with this problem, this is the way I suggest for beginners. I am sure in the comments section below you’ll hear other approaches.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Thanks for the Lab mode tip, I hadn’t heard that before. I like to set a soft brush at between 5 & 10% opacity as it helps prevent any noticable edge to dodged or burned areas and allows more control as you can build it up (or take it away) more gradually.

    Keep up the great TWiP work.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the Lab mode tip, I hadn’t heard that before. I like to set a soft brush at between 5 & 10% opacity as it helps prevent any noticable edge to dodged or burned areas and allows more control as you can build it up (or take it away) more gradually.

    Keep up the great TWiP work.

    Reply
  3. Well, if you wanted to skip the jump to LAB, you could just duplicate the background layer, then change it’s blend mode to luminosity, and then perform your dodge and burn. This will also prevent any hue shifts without having to switch color modes. Actually, any layer based correction can be constrained to luminosity this way, while other brushed based corrections like cloning have blend mode options in the tool’s options bar.

    Reply
  4. Well, if you wanted to skip the jump to LAB, you could just duplicate the background layer, then change it’s blend mode to luminosity, and then perform your dodge and burn. This will also prevent any hue shifts without having to switch color modes. Actually, any layer based correction can be constrained to luminosity this way, while other brushed based corrections like cloning have blend mode options in the tool’s options bar.

    Reply
  5. same here … never heard of the LAB mode …
    am gonna try it … see what happens …
    thanks for the all tips …
    great show … love it …

    Reply
  6. same here … never heard of the LAB mode …
    am gonna try it … see what happens …
    thanks for the all tips …
    great show … love it …

    Reply
  7. Rather than using the dodge and burn tools, create a new layer, fill it with 50% grey, set the layer’s blend mode to soft light, then paint on that layer with white to dodge, and black to burn. A Wacom tablet and low brush opacity work best with this technique. I learned this method from John Arnold on http://www.photowalkthrough.com/.

    Reply
  8. Rather than using the dodge and burn tools, create a new layer, fill it with 50% grey, set the layer’s blend mode to soft light, then paint on that layer with white to dodge, and black to burn. A Wacom tablet and low brush opacity work best with this technique. I learned this method from John Arnold on http://www.photowalkthrough.com/.

    Reply
  9. You mean “go to” don’t you? Not … Go too IMAGE > MODE > LAB.

    Reply
  10. You mean “go to” don’t you? Not … Go too IMAGE > MODE > LAB.

    Reply
  11. I used to do this in the darkroom “dry etching” as well “wet etching” in the etch sink on positives and negatives. DODGE and BURN in LAB is the ticket for removing built-in moires from photographing clothing or materials that moire with the pixels too.

    Reply
  12. I used to do this in the darkroom “dry etching” as well “wet etching” in the etch sink on positives and negatives. DODGE and BURN in LAB is the ticket for removing built-in moires from photographing clothing or materials that moire with the pixels too.

    Reply
  13. For dodge and burn functions, I use Nik Viveza (http://www.niksoftware.com/viveza/). It is extremely fast and even simpler to use than PS. You can also use it to add saturation to a hazy sky or do some localized color correction (very useful when shooting in mixed lighting situations like incandescent + fluorescent). Viveza can now be launched directly from Aperture, which speeds things up even more. The downside: Viveza costs $250.

    Some good news: The same ‘Control Point’ technology used in Viveza can be found in Nikon Capture NX and Capture NX2 (Nik wrote much of Capture NX). Capture NX sells for under $100 these days and does dodge/burn/saturation/CC operations as well the more expensive (and newer) NX2 version. You don’t need to shoot Nikon. Just have Aperture or Light Room call Capture NX as its external editor and pass TIFF files. Using NX in this way, you have a poor person’s Viveza. I used this technique for over a year.

    I finally pulled a “Scott B” and paid the $250 for Viveza. I use it for dodge & burn almost daily. It is so convenient when launched from Aperture, I had to bite the bullet.

    Reply
  14. For dodge and burn functions, I use Nik Viveza (http://www.niksoftware.com/viveza/). It is extremely fast and even simpler to use than PS. You can also use it to add saturation to a hazy sky or do some localized color correction (very useful when shooting in mixed lighting situations like incandescent + fluorescent). Viveza can now be launched directly from Aperture, which speeds things up even more. The downside: Viveza costs $250.

    Some good news: The same ‘Control Point’ technology used in Viveza can be found in Nikon Capture NX and Capture NX2 (Nik wrote much of Capture NX). Capture NX sells for under $100 these days and does dodge/burn/saturation/CC operations as well the more expensive (and newer) NX2 version. You don’t need to shoot Nikon. Just have Aperture or Light Room call Capture NX as its external editor and pass TIFF files. Using NX in this way, you have a poor person’s Viveza. I used this technique for over a year.

    I finally pulled a “Scott B” and paid the $250 for Viveza. I use it for dodge & burn almost daily. It is so convenient when launched from Aperture, I had to bite the bullet.

    Reply
  15. Lab Color also works great for Contrast. Deke McClelland did a short video. Don’t fear Lab mode.

    Here is the link

    http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2008/08/06/dekepod-lab-mode.html

    Reply
  16. Lab Color also works great for Contrast. Deke McClelland did a short video. Don’t fear Lab mode.

    Here is the link

    http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2008/08/06/dekepod-lab-mode.html

    Reply
  17. This is a great tip. I also do HDR photography and LAB mode has been recommended for manipulating those as well.

    Is there a reason not to use LAB all the time?

    Reply
  18. This is a great tip. I also do HDR photography and LAB mode has been recommended for manipulating those as well.

    Is there a reason not to use LAB all the time?

    Reply

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